Infection control update for healthcare

Matt Woodley

30/05/2019 2:43:04 PM

New guidelines are designed to help reduce the more than 165,000 healthcare-associated infections that occur in Australia each year.

Washing hands
More than 165,000 healthcare-associated infections occur in Australia each year.

The revised guidelines, compiled by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC), include new evidence to strengthen the risk-management approach to infection prevention and control.
They also provide a risk-management framework to ensure the basic principles of infection prevention and control can be applied to a wide range of healthcare settings, focusing on core principles and priority areas for action.
According to NHMRC Chief Executive Officer Professor Anne Kelso, the guidelines are one of council’s most frequently requested resources and are used to develop protocols and inform policy at state and territory levels.
‘The guidelines provide a nationally accepted approach to infection prevention and control, focusing on core principles and priority areas for action. They provide a basis for healthcare workers and healthcare facilities to develop local protocols and processes,’ Professor Kelso said.
‘Importantly, the guidelines have a risk-management focus, encouraging clinicians to think about the infection risk of each situation and adapt practice accordingly.
‘There is also greater emphasis in the revised guidelines on better management and surveillance of multi-resistant organisms, in line with global calls for this to be a public health priority.’
Key elements in the 2019 guidelines address several key areas, including:

  • the importance of a patient-centred approach
  • disinfection methods
  • antimicrobial resistance
  • replacement of peripheral intravenous catheters
  • use of chlorhexidine
  • immunisation for healthcare workers
  • norovirus and the use of hospital-grade disinfectants.
While widely associated with hospitals, ACSQHC Chief Executive Officer Adjunct Professor Debora Picone stressed that infection control can occur in all healthcare settings.
‘Healthcare-associated infections are an important issue for patient safety. They are one of the most common complications affecting hospital patients, and greatly increase morbidity and mortality, as well as the risk of readmission,’ she said.
‘Effective infection prevention and control is central to providing high-quality healthcare for patients and a safe working environment for healthcare workers. These guidelines support the National Safety and Quality Health Service standard, “Preventing and controlling healthcare-associated infections”.’
The guidelines feature several general practice scenarios and case studies, including how to respond to reports of a measles outbreak, antimicrobial stewardship surveillance methods, and information on glove use, hand hygiene and seasonal influenza vaccination in an office-based practice.
The RACGP also offers infection prevention and control standards for general practices and other office-based and community-based settings.

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